Rhino review at Bow Arts, London – ‘pertinent but lacks definition’

The cast of Rhino at Bow Arts, London
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Performed outdoors, on a mobile stage, against the washing lines and air conditioning units of Bow Arts’ Victorian studios, Rhino is a 2017 ‘conversation’ with Ionesco’s Rhinoceros.

Ionesco play explores the creeping radicalisation of entire populations via the metaphor of stampeding rhinos. Director Cradeaux Alexander provides a multilingual and fractured take on the text, with videos available pre-performance on Facebook.

Several of these – vox pops of actors describing rhino stampeding in London streets – are made part of the audio track. The denouement is delivered on a TV screen, unveiled by Alexander. He follows the performers with floodlights, sometimes as a rhino himself.

As the self-satisfied middle-class professionals who turn into snorting rhinos, Paul McLaughlin (Jean) and Benjamin May (Dudard) provide strong physical counterpoints to Luca Pusceddu’s rumpled Berenger, a drunk who is alone in resisting ‘rhinoceritis’. Clare Almond, doubling as the Logician and Botard, exposes the uselessness of logic when called upon on to disarm irrational forces.

The production’s analysis of how the media manufactures populism is pertinent. Its strongest moment is when townspeople (Liis Mikk and Carol Morgan) repurpose the stage as a platform for speeches from the Trump inauguration and the foundation of the European Community, performed verbatim. This works thanks to a note-perfect performance from Mikk as Trump.

Other concepts are less successful. The acting styles don’t quite gel, and the whole performance could be shorter. As an occasion to meditate on the present moment however, it feels timely.

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Open air reworking of Ionesco that reflects the current climate but lacks definition